tv Your Business MSNBC November 13, 2011 4:30am-5:00am PST
how does a small business get major retailers interested in its products? one entrepreneur shares how he got target and walgreens on board. and he's the man behind the keyboards for the rolling stones and the allman brothers. but did you know he owns a tree farm and an online company too? chuck leavell talks about how to run a green small business. that's all coming up next on "your business." small businesses are revitalizing the economy, and american express open is here to help. that's why we are proud to present "your business" on
msnbc. hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg and welcome to "your business." where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. many of you have asked us what it takes to get your product onto the shelves of a major retailer. and so today, we're taking a closer look at that process through the eyes of a company in california. from almost the very beginning, this business pursued some of the nation's largest retailers in an effort to get them to stay yes. ♪ >> they started out with 16 items in our store. and they now have over 50. >> just an incredible brand. and we're so excited to have them as a partner. >> walgreens and target are both
saying yes to yes to inc. >> it proved to be very successful for us. that's why we brought it inside the stores and kept it online, as well. >> the response immediately was phenomenal. but over time, the line has grown dramatically. >> walgreens' vice president shannon curtin and target vice president dusty tucker jenkins say their respective customers are big fans of yes to carrots, yes to cucumbers, yes to tomatoes and yes to blueberries. >> it was productive enough and had the benchmark it needed to to bring it in-line. but it was also the customer following he had developed. >> we credit the yes to team. they're incredibly innovative. they've really been able to answer the call. they don't sit still for not even one moment. >> ido leffler, cofunder of san francisco based yes to, says that getting his organic skin and hair care products into major retailers was a coup. not even he could contain his excitement at first. his reaction was something like this. >> can't say that on television,
unfortunately. it was oh, beep, beep, beep. it was really incredible. >> early on the 5-year-old company decided to approach larger retailers, despite its own humble beginnings. >> we started with six products in 16 stores. just really as a test to see how it would go. and it exploded from there. >> with the staff of about 25 working with five american production facilities, yes to currently supplies products to 28,000 stores worldwide. leffler explains how the company was able to make an impression so quickly. >> the simple answer is we didn't know any better. at the time, all of these retailers were setting up natural sets in their stores so the timing was right. and we wanted to make an impact as a new brand. >> reporter: but getting to the point of pitching to prospective partners was initially somewhat of a challenge. >> we had to scramble. it was hard. but we had a rough plan. we didn't realize it was going to happen so quickly. which is what ended up getting
us into a little bit of trouble. >> reporter: yes to got its first big break after sinking plenty of time and money into trade shows. with some help from a contact, yes to got a 30-minute pitch meeting at walgreens that turned into a few hours. >> we wanted that presentation to be a presentation which had no questions at the end of it. we wanted them, the only question we wanted them to ask was, when can we have it? >> while touting yes to was easy, answering questions wasn't. leffler says retailers always want to know about a vendor's potential. >> at the end of the day the retailer wants to know, are you bringing incremental people to my store? and how are you going to make sure that they buy your product versus somebody else's. >> after an online trial and an offer for shelf space at thousands of stores, yes to needed to ramp up production. and fast. >> this was black or white for us. we didn't really see an opportunity to fail. we literally ran around to ten different manufacturers to get bottles done on time, to get
them to move other manufacturers to the back of the line so we could get to the front of the line. and somehow we made it happen. >> that was by far one of the trickiest parts of working with a major outlet. leffler says there's little room for error. especially when it comes to delivering goods. >> you know, they understand that you're not the same size as some of the larger guys and that you might make a few faux pas. but at the same time they've got to protect their business, protect their customer. you really can't be late. if you miss your window, sometimes by even 15 minutes, you can get fined. and you can potentially, over time, lose your shelf space. >> unlike walgreens, yes to used a different approach when introducing itself to target. >> when we first met with target, we went through a broker. and that broker adds a certain level of credibility to what you're doing. and if you meet with a broker and that broker tells you you're not ready, you're probably not ready. >> at that point yes to was better prepared. the company had already grown to satisfy increased demand.
leffler found some differences among retailers. he learned that each vendor gets its own deal. they're never the same. >> the relationship that you have with your mom is different than what you have with your best friend. and it's the same thing here. >> it's important that we have open lines of communication. that we understand what they're expecting from us. and in turn, that we understand -- or that they understand what we're expecting from them. >> even though a vendor may land a major deal, leffler says they must push to keep partnerships thriving. and you always have to think about money. >> a lot of people believe you get into 5,800 stores, you get multimillion dollar orders, that all of a sudden you're made. that's -- you're done. unfortunately, in those first years you're putting all that money back in. >> despite yes to's success, leffler admits he may have bitten off a little more than he could chew. in fact, he may have tried to sell too much at first. >> sometimes you can sell the car, you don't need the sunroof and the power windows. get the core.
get your core in, if it's one product or five products. >> he believes small business owners like him may want to rethink their major league plans until they get their minor league affairs in order. >> if i had my day over, i don't know whether i would have said let's go straight into, you know, an online trial followed by 5,800 stores. we didn't even know what products are going to do better and what products are going to do worse. by starting that smaller retailers it gives you a significant advantage as you go into these larger retailers to make sure that you do get it right. >> this is just one company's story about how it landed deals with major retailers. as you heard both executives say in the piece, every business owner has a unique experience. let's bring in this week's board of directors. karen waxman is a former manufacturer's rep who is now president of product for profit. she teaches entrepreneurs how to market and sell their products to major retailers.
stella grizont is the founder of woopaah, a new company that designs creative team building experiences. and mike michalowicz is the author of the best-selling book, "the toilet paper entrepreneur" and he is the founder of obsidian launch that provides online behavioral marketing services. great to see you all. and congratulations stella. >> thank you. >> since you were on last time you launched a company. karen, thanks so much for joining us today. i'm going to start with you. this is a question we -- i've gotten it so many times over the past six years, of how do i get my product into one of these companies. do you suggest that people go about it as an individual, just go in themselves, or go through a broker? we saw them both in the piece. >> yeah, it's a really good question. i mean at the end of the day, it's so important that you, as a business owner, figure out how to generate revenue. so in my case, a lot of times, i meet product entrepreneurs who are struggling because they went out, tried to find a sales rep, trying to find a broker, and
sometimes they do awesome. and when they do, that's fantastic and they help you to get your products into stores. but sometimes, when you are actually going out to get the help, and they don't help you, you're kind of stuck, because what you really want to do is get your products into stores. and that's where i come in. i teach people how to get their products into retailers regardless of sales experience. >> what would you tell someone, so i'm j.j. and i just made a new hair clip and i want to get knit target. what do i do? >> absolutely. so there's some things, so unfortunately, you know, it's such a tough question because it depends on where they are in the process. some people are really ready to go, they've set up packaging, they've done all the work that they needed. they have the manufacturing in place, and so forth. if you are really, really ready to go in that case, i would recommend going to the buyer directly, and i can tell you some approaches of how to actually get the buyer's name and contact information. and honestly, i would reach out to the buyer, providing them all the information that they need. they need information related to
what your product looks like. you know, what the packaging looks like. pricing and so forth. >> i'm going to stop you for one second. because you two are amazing networkers, and you guys are incredibly bold going to people. how do you get somebody to answer you, the guy from target has a million people calling him. how does he -- how does he call you back? >> first of all, you had me at amazing. so we're done. we're done. the key is, and the lesson was in that package about yes to, start small. they started with six items selling to 16 stores. they have to build a following. a lot of people try to go too big, too fast. too large of a breadth of an offering. start small. the second tip is go american. they're manufacturing in america. there's a good reason for it. it's more expensive, but you can get the items and material in quickly. you can get the products quickly and respond quickly. the third lesson is tenacity. you have to be tenacious. >> but how do you get them to call you back? do you have to know someone? the guy said he did it through contact. >> we have several members of
ladies who launch who actually network amongst each other who have products in different stores and find out who are those key buyers. if you don't find them online directly and you don't -- and can you go to the store and you can start asking around. and it's purely just about being creative. just keeping -- creating a relationship with people in store. identifying the buyer. calling them, e-mailing them, letting them know about your product. being willing to do a demo. being willing to share and demonstrate proof of concept. and also to exchange information with other people who sell products in that store. >> but that's also great, right. somebody can go into a buy irat target and you have a noncompetitive product and they can say, oh, my friend makes this, you should show it. or you should look at it. or show the buyer who is in charge of that department. >> it's really about relationships. >> everything's always about relationships. karen if you get in there and get a meeting, what kind of questions should you be prepared to ask -- answer. >> sure. they're going to ask you a lot of different questions. first of all they want to see
your product. they want to see what the packaging looks like. they want to know if you've sold the product anywhere. have you spent time, you kno know, -- what's your volume that you're doing so far. what they want to know at the end of the day is that they're working with somebody who's serious about getting their products in the stores. the great thing about that interview you just did with yes to was that he thought it through, he put down, wrote down every single possible question that the retail buyer could ask them, and prepared in advance. when you go into a meeting with a buyer you want to show that you're serious, that you're direct, that you know what you're doing. >> are they going to ask to look at your financial statements or is that later down the road? >> that's later down the road. initially what they want to know is really, is your product cool? do they think that the product is going to sell? and ultimately, what have you done so far and how are you going to help them sell their products in the stores? because it's a really big deal for them. they want to know that you're partnering with them. >> press is really important in terms of demonstrating that you have an audience, that you have a following. >> right. >> also demonstrating your
online sales is a great way to start. so if they're not already in stores, you can show the momentum that you've had online. >> it's just like pitching an investor. you want to show your traction. >> one little secret trick you can do is look at products they already sell that your product complements so you can point to momentum with something they already have you become a no-brainer. >> thank you so much. karen, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> andy and rachel berliner created the nation's first natural frozen food brand in 1987. and named eight after their then-newborn daughter amy. today, despite growing competition, amy's kitchen is still the leading natural frozen food brand nationwide. the berliners talked to us about the benefits of reading feedback, their no-yelling rule, and running a family business in this "learning from the pros." ♪ amy amy amy >> i think one of the reasons we've continued to be successful, and actually are larger in proportion to
competitors than we ever have been at this stage is because they've stayed a small company in attitude and philosophy, and in care for the quality of taste and taste of our product. this is a long-term thing for you or for something you might want to turn into a family business, then own it yourself. even if you have to grow a lot slower. so i think that's one point. and our goal is to have a family-owned business. ♪ used to say, you guys aren't -- but this company can't succeed because, you know, this is wrong. this is wrong. and i said, you know, big companies are the same way. everybody makes mistakes. you know. >> you just have to make these mistakes in the beginning. i always think that businesses are a lot more forgiving than you think. because all businesses make mistakes. you just do. you just make mistakes. and it's not the end of the world. ♪ >> step out of the management of the business, the day-to-day management, as soon as possible.
because, you know, entrepreneurship, people who like to start new things, who like new ideas, they're not necessarily good day-to-day managers. >> if you're always worrying about just, you know, how much salt you're putting in, or how is this machine working, or all these little things, then creativity sometimes doesn't happen. ♪ when we started the business, right away we started getting customer's letters of appreciation. and when we started, we didn't make any money. we didn't lose money. but we didn't make money. and when my husband, we'd have a hard day and he'd say oh, should we keep on? but these letters from our customers, i would read them. i would read them to andy, that kept us going. that people wanted -- they liked our food. they wanted us to continue. and i suggest that the owners read the letters. not just have a customer service person. because it's a way to be in touch with your customer. i find out what products people
want. they'll start giving me suggestions. they like something, could you make more of this. could you make pizzas. could you make soups. they'll always tell us, basically. ♪ >> well, in the early years, and still, i mean it's always a kind of a struggle to a certain sense to keep amy's completely gentle, kind place. but i'm very sensitive person myself. and so i don't like to be yelled at. so i figure, no one that works for me should have to, you know, be publicly scolded or yelled at or made to feel bad. everybody does their best. you know. and just talk about things. you know. and so it's kind of become a company culture. >> still ahead. we answer your small business questions. including one about getting your product into a high-end department store. and at night, he's a musician in
demand for groups like the rolling stones. by day, he runs a successful green business. up next, chuck leechle shares his secrets for small business success. smal l bu sinesses are the smal lifeblood of our communities. absolutely crucial. vital. they make it unique and they make you happy to live where you live. brings a little flair to the towns that we have. on november 26th you can make a huge impact by shopping small on small business saturday. one purchase... one purchase is all it takes. pledge to shop small on small business saturday, it will help support your community. and that is a big deal. it's pretty big. so, pick your favorite local business... and join the movement. i pledge to shop small at big top candy shop.
at juno baby store... allen's boots... samy's camera... tag's hardware. you don't have to buy the whole store. make the pledge to shop small. please. on small business saturday. one of our next guests, were it not for the resource of wood, the piano wouldn't exist. so it should come as no surprise that tree farming strikes a chord with one rock star environmentalist. chuck leavell is a highly respected piano player with the distinction of being a member in two of rock 'n' roll's greatest bands. he's a longtime key boardist for the rolling stones and he was a
member of the allman brothers band during the height of their popularities. chuck also doubles as an entrepreneur and an environmentalist. he is co-founder of the environmental news and information website, the mother nature network. chuck is also author of the new book "growing a better america: smart, strong, sustainable." joel babbit is the co-founder and chief executive author of the mother nature network website and they are both here today. thanks so much for joining us. >> great to be here. >> this is the week for it. green is universal. we're talking about all the things you can do to be green. and we have a lot of small businesses coming to us quite often saying, i want to be green, what can i do besides sort of, you know, change my light bulbs? i want to get to the point you guys told me. the first one is set higher standards. higher than what? >> well, all companies, of any size now, are being scrutinized a lot more in terms of their environmental practices. but if you position yourself as a green company, you can even multiply that by three or four. so, you need to make very sure
that the practices that you're following and the way you run your business are following an run your business are transparent and you are doing the right thing. if somebody is looking at you, they will check it. >> i would look into little things like are you wasting paper in your printer, and it's silly but it's all about perception. >> it's the little things that add up, especially in a small business. >> and look at a plan that saves money not the planet. >> and people are not going to care if you are green if people can get something cheaper. >> yeah, it has to be better for the consumer, whether you are talking about a product or service, but it has to make economic sense. i think it was former president clinton that said we will tackle climate change when it's good business to do so. when we are looking at any
environmental matter, again, products or services, it needs to be prau tofitable and a good for the consumer. >> green has grown as rapidly as it has because when it was just good for the planet, it had a very limited interests. when it became good for business is when it really has taken off. when you ship stuff by more fuel efficient means, you save money. when you package it in a certain way, you get higher margins. that's when it began to launch in a big way. >> we talked about this a second ago, but don't think because you are green people will come flocking. >> yeah, you have to walk the talk, and you have to show people what you are doing and as
joel says, you have to invite people in, and this is what we're doing to be more energy efficient or whatever the case may be, and you have to walk the talk. >> i suspect you have to be honest, in the respect that there will be higher scrutiny on you, so don't try to cover it up. say you are working on it. >> yeah, don't feel like you can save the world in one swoop, you know. take baby steps and doolittle things that will save energy in your business and that will take you along the path of sustainability. again, you don't have to do it all in one day, and take your time and learn was go. that's another thing. as you take the time and develop other business you will find ways to improve the environment. >> you have had a few partnerships with your company. >> partnerships are so important, whether we are talking about partnering with mgos or people that are your
suppliers or customers. i give a speech called stewartship and partnership, and that means it is a good stalwart of the land and your business, and whether we are talking about land or whatever, you need good partnerships. you need to find others, and what you are thinking will come to fruition. is it a little too easy for your mind to start wondering at work? here are the top five office distractions to keep productivity at home. first, noise, even low-level sounds in open-style offices can be a huge distraction. keep loud appliances away from the work space.
>> room temperature. having a room that is too cold or hot can lead to proproductivity. keep the temperature around 74 degrees. number three, tech intrusion. nearly 60% of the work ent interruptions can come from the internet. and four, office seating. chairs that are not adjustable and desks too small can cause sore backs, and uncomfortable workers produce less, and color, and height, and ceiling height can change the way we think. it's time to answer some of your business questions. stella and mike are here with us once again. the first question is about high-end retailers. >> i want to put my box in high
end retailers, like neiman marcus. what would be my strategy to go that far? >> good question. we are talking about getting your brand in a bigger brand store? >> you have to know what they represent as an entity and identity. when you bring in your purse line or bag line you have to make sure it compliments their identity. you can do trunk stores, and you sole consignment to prove you can sell this nar stores. >> you want to make sure that your brand as is, on your website, really reflects their demographic. you want to make sure. pricing on your website makes sense for the retailer you will enter, because if they sell their bags in their stores, is your price match point competing, and are they competing with you, so make sure you are prepared to let them
have the spotlight in terms of selling your product. >> what about as a home business? >> i wouldn't describe it as a home business, but as a boutique, a one-of-a-kind. >> but have a sharp-looking website. >> here is the next question. >> for a young intrapreneur, how do you decide whether you should bootstrap or seek out a venture capitalist? >> bootstrap. that's my answer. >> i am all about the bootstrapping. but people feel like they need money and investors, but then ask the question, how much do you need and what do you need it for? how long until you actually need it? try to stretch out the amount of time that you are producing your own product and krae agt itself, and that impresses investors once you get to the point where you need them.
>> i would not just suggest bootstrap, but freaking bootstrapping. it makes you count the pennies that you have. let them come to you later down the road. >> you will surprised of the solutions you think of when you don't have the money. >> yeah, i said it before, but i worked for a company in the late '90s, and everywhere around me people were spending so much money on wasteful stuff, because we all had it. and then the bubble crashed and suddenly you get creative marketing campaigns that cost almost nothing. >> thank you for the advice. if any of you out there have a question for experts, all you have to do is go to the website. the address is openforum.com/yourbusiness. or if you would rather, you can e-mail us your questions and
comments, the address is email@example.com. are you looking for extra help this holiday season? check out our website of the week. flex jobs.com helps to connect employers with work and virtual jobs. they can search natalie and internationally for the best candidates. can you post unlimited number of physicians. job seekers have to pay to use the site. click on the website, openforum.com/yourbusiness. you will find web exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. don't forget to help become a fan of the show on facebook, and you can follow us on twitter. next week, we devote the show to small business saturday and the effort to get customers to buy local.
>> so the buy local movement is that when you buy local, the money stays in the community, so it's better for the local community to shop with small independent vendors. >> we go to austin, texas, where farmers and suppliers work locally to get their customers to patronize small businesses. smal l bu sinesses are the smal lifeblood of our communities. on november 26th you can make a huge impact by shopping small on small business saturday. one purchase. one purchase is all it takes. so, pick your favorite local business... and join the movement. i pledge to shop small at big top candy shop. allen's boots... at juno baby store. make the pledge to shop small.